Nationalism in India
People’s Perception Of The Movement
Farmers: For the farmers, the fight for swaraj was a struggle against high revenues. When the movement was called off in 1931; without the revenue rates being revised; the farmers were highly disappointed. Many of them refused to participate when the movement was re-launched in 1932. The small tenants just wanted the unpaid rent to the landlord to be remitted. They often joined the radical movements which were led by Socialists and Communists. Congress did not want to alienate the rich landlords and hence, the relationship between the poor peasants and Congress was uncertain.
The Indian merchants and industrialists could grow their business during the First World War. They were against those colonial policies which restricted their business activities. They wanted protection against imports and a rupee-sterling foreign exchange ratio which would discourage imports. The Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress was formed in 1920 and the Federation of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) was formed in 1927. These were the results of attempts to bring the common business interests on a common platform. For the businessmen, swaraj meant an end to oppressive colonial policies. They wanted an environment which could allow the business to flourish. They were apprehensive of militant activities and of growing influence of socialism among the younger members of the Congress.
The industrial workers showed lukewarm response to the Civil Disobedience Movement. Since industrialists were closer to the Congress, workers kept a distance from the movement. But some workers selectively participated in the Movement. Congress did not want to alienate the industrialists and hence preferred to keep the workers’ demands at bay.
Women also participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement in large numbers. However, most of the women were from high-caste families in the urban areas and from rich peasant households in the rural areas. But for a long time, the Congress was reluctant to give any position of authority to women within the organization. The Congress was just keen on the symbolic presence of women.
The Limits Of Civil Disobedience
Participation of Dalits
Initially Congress used to ignore the dalits; because it did not want to alienate the conservative high-caste Hindus. But Mahatma Gandhi was of the view to bring social reforms to improve the plight of the dalits. Mahatma Gandhi declared that without removing the practice of untouchability, swaraj could not be achieved.
Many dalit leaders wanted a different political solution to the problems of the dalit community. They demanded reserved seats in educational institutions and separate electorate for dalits. Dalit participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement was limited.
Dr. B R Ambedkar organized the dalits into the Depressed Classes Association in 1930. He clashed with Mahatma Gandhi; during the second Round Table Conference; on the issue of separate electorate for dalits.
When the British government conceded Ambedkar’s demand, Gandhji began a fast unto death. Finally Ambedkar had to accept Gandhiji’s position. This resulted in signing of the Poona Pact of September 1932. It made the provision for reserved seats for the Depressed Classes in provincial and central legislative councils. But the voting was to be done by the general electorate.
Participation of Muslims
After the decline of the Non-Cooperation-Khilafat Movement, a large section of Muslims became alienated from the Congress. From the mid-1920s, the Congress was more visibly associated with the Hindu religious nationalist groups.
The Congress and the Muslim League tried to renegotiate and alliance. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was an important leader of the Muslim League. He was willing to give up the demand for separate electorate. But he wanted reserved seats for Muslims in the Central Assembly. He also wanted representation in proportion to population in the Muslim-dominated provinces (Punjab and Bengal). At the All Parties Conference in 1928, M R Jayakar of the Hindu Mahasabha strongly opposed the efforts at compromise. This further alienated the Muslims from the Congress.
The Sense Of Collective Belonging
Nationalism spreads when people begin to believe that they are all part of the same nation, when they discover some unity that binds them together. The united struggles for independence helped in building the sense of collective belonging. Additionally, a variety of cultural processes also captured the spirit of nationalism.
Nation Depicted in Images
The identity of the nation is most often symbolised in a figure or image; with which people can identify the nation. The image of Bharat Mata was the pictorial representation of the mother land. ‘Vande Mataram’ the national song was written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1870s. This was sung during the Swadeshi movement in Bengal. Different artists projected their own version of Bharat Mata.
Many nationalist leaders took help of folk tales to spread the idea of nationalism. It was believed that the folk tales revealed the true picture of traditional culture.
The national flag which we see today has evolved through various stages. A tricolor (red, green and yellow) was used during the Swadeshi movement. There were eight lotuses on it which depicted the eight provinces of British India. There was a crescent moon on the flag which represented Hindus and Muslims. Gandhji had designed the Swaraj flag by 1921. It was also a tricolor (red, green and white) and there was a spinning wheel in the centre.
Reinterpretation of History
Many Indians felt that the British had given a different interpretation of the Indian history. They felt that it was important to interpret the history from an Indian perspective. They wanted to glorify the rich past of India so that the Indians could feel proud of their history.